GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, N.L. – The owner of the sawmill that was destroyed in an early morning fire Thursday, May 31, says he believes the blaze was intentionally set.
“It was deliberately caught,” John Shearing told the Advertiser Thursday afternoon. “What would catch it? I don’t smoke, there’s nothing there to spark, the engine is not burned, the engine is outside, the battery is outside. There’s nothing in the sawmill that’s electric…. I mean, it was caught deliberately.”
The sawmill, about 15 kilometres west of Grand Falls-Windsor, was already levelled when firefighters from Grand Falls-Windsor responded to the call just after 8:30 a.m.
“By the time we got there, the sawmill was already completely destroyed, and there was a fair amount of wood on fire around the yard as well,” Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie said. He estimated the fire had been burning for two or three hours prior to that, and that no one was injured in the blaze.
Grand Falls -Windsor Fire responded to a sawmill fire 15 kms west of town on Trans Canada Hwy this morning. Total loss of saw mill. Firefighters extinguished fire which also threatened forested area. Scene turned over to @FAA_GovNL. pic.twitter.com/ahX9506k98— Vince MacKenzie (@FirechiefVince) May 31, 2018
Shearing said he had left the site at about 9:30 the night before, and had packed a lunch, ready to return to work on Thursday. Instead, he got a call from a driver he knew at 7:45 a.m., telling him that something was burning out near his mill.
“By the time I got fueled up and went up, she was gone. The building was destroyed,” Shearing said.
Municipal firefighters as well as forestry workers responded, and while the cause of the fire is not yet known, Shearing said a guard was posted at the site and a fire investigator is coming in from Wesleyville.
RCMP confirmed that a fire investigator was called in and indicated their report would take a few days to put together
“As of right now, it’s being treated as suspicious,” Cpl. Duncan Osmond of the Grand Falls-Windsor RCMP said Thursday afternoon. “We’re trying to find out the source of the ignition.”
Shearing said the sawmill was meant to be a temporary building and burned fast, though he did not lose the engine or the battery that ran it. Still, he lost a lot of lumber, as well as a structure he said had been serving him well.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “That’s my living. I been doing this for many, many years, and, I mean, I was sawing a nice bit of lumber there.”
RCMP are asking anyone who may have seen any vehicles or anything suspicious in the area between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. May 31 to call the detachment, or to contact Crimestoppers anonymously.